Future Trends in Video Conferencing: Tough Times for the Specifiers

Guest blog from Sam Kennedy, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Crestron

Future Trends in Video Conferencing: Tough Times for the Specifiers
CollaborationMeeting Rooms and DevicesInsights

Published: May 1, 2024

Guest Blogger

The question’s currently on repeat: “What’s next?”

It’s the query we’re hearing all the time now when it comes to video conferencing technology — and unified communications more broadly. When the question is being asked, it’s often not coming from a place of pure curiosity. It’s phrased with an undertone of trepidation.

And with good reason.

As you’re aware, the pandemic and its aftermath accelerated the adoption rate of hybrid work technologies. Organizations discovered that their quick and dirty solutions — a single webcam tacked to one wall of a conference room — were woefully inadequate. At the same time, manufacturers and platform players were introducing systems and features at a pace unlike anything prior.

All of this brings us to where we are now: UC solutions have proven their worth many times over, and these technologies have gone from “nice-to-have” to essential.

But the pace of change has been overwhelming. Let’s face it: It’s a tough time to be a specifier.

A Relentless Pace

With AI-driven technology seemingly everywhere, with camera and microphone solutions advancing like never before, and with the proliferation of cloud-based solutions being pitched from every corner of the industry, the people who have to buy this stuff are understandably nervous. Just how compressed can a refresh cycle get, after all? Multiply that answer across a sprawling university campus or a global enterprise, and things can get complicated pretty quickly.

The good news is that we have enough data from the past four years to make some educated guesses about the near term. Additionally, more and more manufacturers are offering solutions that can be updated via software — which is obviously more cost-effective than replacing devices.

If we step back and look at the available options — while we’re carefully reflecting on our clients’ needs — we can help them specify solutions that won’t be instantly outdated.

The Various Options — a Quick Overview

Multi-Camera Component Systems

The most significant technical development of the past few years has been the proliferation of multi-camera solutions — when coupled with the right software, they really deliver the meeting equity that clients are after in hybrid settings. These systems — along with the proper mics, speakers, and displays — are vital for larger spaces where high-impact meetings are held or critical presentations are delivered. Giving everyone an absolutely clear visual and aural experience — for both collaborators and content — is a must.

Because individual components can be replaced if need be, this makes life a little less stressful for the specifier. One way to ensure that the experience is top-notch: make cameras with optical zoom a priority. A camera that maintains excellent pixel density in closeups is always superior to a device that leans on digital zoom — especially in those large, high-impact spaces.

The All-In-One Video Bar

The good news is that all-in-one collaboration bars are improving in quality at a rapid pace. They’re often the right pick for smaller to mid-sized rooms, but as camera and audio technologies continue to advance, they can handle an ever-widening footprint. Since they’re easy to deploy at scale, they’re a top choice for a rapidly expanding enterprise.

There’s an obvious issue with obsolescence here — if one part of the whole becomes outdated, the entire unit needs an update. On the upside, more and more of these bars are being offered with high-end features such as cameras with optical zoom.

Presenting, Sharing, and BYOD

In addition to ensuring that a system can handle displaying a spreadsheet with the same kind of quality as a talking head, the devices and solutions that are used for content sharing and presentation — especially in BYOD situations — need a simple, plug-and-play operation. No one wants to attempt to share a PowerPoint deck only to discover they need to download some program that requires admin permissions.

Dongles that need no software to share content — just a simple USB-C connection — are here to stay, and anything that reduces calls to the help desk is bound to keep a specifier happy.

Room Automation

More and more end users want to walk into a room, touch a single button, and have every aspect respond — lighting, shading, and, of course, AV and collaboration devices. Fortunately, these solutions are sometimes packaged as end-to-end ecosystems with open APIs that allow for third-party integration.

The platforms that are driving these solutions often have the capacity to be updated via software, and if the manufacturer that’s created the foundational system doesn’t have something specific that a client needs, there’s likely a solution that will “work and play well” with what you’ve already got.

The thing to remember is that any automation solution is going to be used by many people presenting and collaborating in a variety of ways. That means careful attention must be paid to control interfaces that are as simple and intuitive as possible, and programming pre-set “scenes” for different use cases must be planned very carefully.

The AI Question

As you’d likely expect, the wild card in all of this is the astonishing advancement of AI. While a great many practical uses are already here — the ability to improve speaker-tracking in multi-camera deployments to follow the natural flow of conversation, for example — the potential of AI to change the entire game may not be far off. Will we one day find ourselves in a situation where several virtual assistants meet to determine a sales strategy or product development — and then present their findings to the CEO for a final decision?

All of that is conjecture, though — for now. As I’m fond of saying, 2024 is a continuation of 2023, where innovations are being driven at a platform level — that innovation is tied to Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and Google. There’s definitely a move towards cloud-based solutions, and that will continue apace through this year and the next.

Ultimately, my advice for those who are selling, designing, and integrating UC systems in the current environment is this: Read and understand everything you possibly can about what’s available for your clients right now. Talk to your vendors. Understand what they have today and what they are working on for the future. Build in as much flexibility into your deployments as possible. And communicate with your end users. The more info you can share with those beleaguered specifiers, the happier they’ll be.

Artificial IntelligenceBlogBYODCollaboration DisplaysDigital TransformationFuture of WorkGenerative AIHybrid WorkService ManagementUser ExperienceVideo ConferencingWorkplace Management

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